The JJ Watt Foundation Makes NFL Ownership Look like Jerks

The original intention of this article was to call out JJ Watt for utilizing Hurricane Harvey to help further his brand. But with the intention of remaining truthful, I have to be honest.

It’s genuine. I reviewed statement after statement, TV and radio spot, and articles from all over the country and I honestly tried to tear him apart. But, I can’t. It would be a lie if I did.

The truth is, JJ Watt is an excellent example of how to use your power of celebrity to do some good in the world. He isn’t just sitting back and allowing the money come to him, he’s out there, working alongside rescue personnel to deliver food, packages, first aid, and more. He’s bringing smiles to people who recognize him, children who might idolize him, and folks who have seen so much debilitating travesty that could use any sort of enlivenment.

It doesn’t start and end with the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. Mr. Watt has proven to be an excellent voice in the fundraising community, doing his part to raise awareness and efforts towards communities that are often left otherwise abandoned.

The Watt Foundation slogan, “Dream Big, Work Hard” seems, on the surface, like just another blithe corporate utterance that falls short of inspiration. But Watt has literally lived it, deciding not to play the hand he was dealt, but rather blazing his own path right into the heart of Texas. He is currently not only delivering on his slogan as a professional athlete, but as a person who sincerely cares about this country.

JJ Watt started his collegiate career as a tight end at Central Michigan University. He thought initially that he would be scoring some touchdowns and grabbing a lot of receptions there. He didn’t. His coach asked him to move to the offensive line. JJ decided to leave his scholarship behind.

He was a walk-on at Wisconsin and actually got red shirted his first year. He had an immediate impact once he started playing. In the interim, JJ was delivering pizzas to make ends meet. He never gave up on his greater goal, his passion, and dedication to be the best he could be. It earned him the 11th spot in 2011 NFL draft.

The Texans weren’t sold on JJ right away and it took an opining Wade Philips to convince the team they should draft him. Watt was all grins as he walked up to shake the commissioner’s hand, surrounded by booing from Texans fans. The negativity didn’t shrink the big man and maybe fueled his first season where he was dominate.

There were Texans fans and pundits from around the country that lauded the pick. Sometimes I wonder if they think back on that moment where they booed the man that ended up being an anchor for the defense, a potential Hall of Famer, and one hell of a model neighbor and citizen.

The Justin J. Watt Foundation has raised over $3.3 million dollars to help fund athletic programs for 6th through 8th graders around the country. The requirements include that at least 60% of the students are eligible for the reduced or free lunch program. The foundation has specifically targeted the areas that need it the most, ensuring that your donated dollars go to the areas of this country that truly need it.

The amount of money the NFL donates each year is arguable. The NFL Foundations supports health and safety initiatives, 60 minutes of play or NFL play 60, other grants and scholarships, and many smaller foundations every year. Their website boasts that they have given over $386 million dollars away since their inception in 1973. That’s about $8 million per year.

If you add the $27 million from Harvey relief to the $3 million previously raised for the 6th and 8th graders, that’s a total of $30 million since 2011. Only a few million less per year that the NFL raises. Watt certainly has the potential to far surpass what the NFL has ever dreamed of doing.

The NFL’s revenues have soared to over $13 billion per year. The players get 46% of that to split for their negotiated contracts. There’re around 1,700 players in the NFL. The other 54% goes to 31 owners and the Green Bay Packers. Considering that franchises are selling for all-time highs, it’s safe to say that the margins are pretty good. Ownership and the NFL Foundation should certainly be doing more for their sport and for areas of this country that need it.

The NFL operates on faux socialism, fueled by capitalism, strung out on greed, and constantly biting the hand that feeds it.

Luckily for the organization, they have players like JJ Watt, out there actively trying to make a difference in his community and in the United States. The stratagem of “Protecting the Shield” at all costs is much easier when you are able to hide behind a real life hero.

Maybe Mr. Watt will inspire some of the owners to come out from behind his shadow to join the fight to make everyone’s life a little better, especially those who tune in every Sunday to help afford those yearly salary increases.

Maybe instead of just protecting the shield, the NFL owners could learn to “Dream Big, Work Hard” like JJ and ensure that their sport stick around longer than they do.